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United States v. Strong

October 11, 1985

UNITED STATES
v.
CURTIS STRONG



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania

Author: Sloviter

Before: WEIS, SLOVITER, and STAPLETON, Circuit Judges

Opinion SUR MOTION FOR BAIL PENDING SENTENCING

SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

I.

Curtis Strong, the petitioner, has moved this court for an order of release pending sentencing following his conviction on eleven counts of narcotics offenses. Strong initially presented his application for release in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, which denied the motion. He resubmitted it to this court. Our power to entertain such a motion is explicitly provided for in 18 U.S.C. § 3141(b) which states: "A judicial officer . . . of a Federal appellate court, shall order that, pending imposition or execution of sentence . . . a person be released or detained pursuant to the provisions of this chapter."

In ruling on bail, a court of appeals should "independently determine" such applications because of the crucial nature of the defendant's liberty interest and the "clear public interest" that is at stake. United States v. Delker, 757 F.2d 1390, 1399-1400 (3d Cir. 1985), Quoting S. Rep. No. 225, 98th Cong., 1st Sess. [2d Sess.] at 30 (1983), reprinted in 1984 U.S. Code Cong. & Ad. News at 33 (Supp. 9A) [3213]. Accord United States v. Bayko, 774 F.2d 516 (1st Cir. 1985). At the same time, we cannot disregard the trial judge's supporting statement of reasons, both because it is mandated under Fed. R. App. P. 9(a) and because the trial court has firsthand experience with the defendant and the crime. We have balanced these competing factors in articulating the following standard: "Appellate courts [should] give the reasons articulated by trial judges respectful consideration, but if, after careful assessment of the trial judge's reasoning, together with such papers, affidavits, and portions of the record as the parties present, the court of appeals independently reaches a conclusion different from that of the trial judge the court of appeals has the power to amend or reverse a detention or release decision." United States v. Delker, 757 F.2d at 1400. This standard, initially formulated in a case involving an appeal from a bail determination by the district court, is equally applicable to motions for release filed in this court.

II.

Folliwng a jury trial that lasted from September 3, 1985 to September 20, 1985, Curtis Strong was found guilty of eleven counts of distributing and possessing with the intent to distribute cocaine, a Schedule II Controlled Substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Strong had been at liberty during the course of the trial. Immediately following the return of the verdict, the trial court revoked his bail, and, after a detention hearing on September 23, 1985, denied Strong's motion for reinstatement of bail pending sentencing. Sentencing is scheduled for October 21, 1985.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 sets forth different standards for release on bail for defendants who are pending trial, who have been convicted and are awaiting sentence, and who have been sentenced and are pending appeal. Bail for a defendant who is pending sentence, such as Strong, is governed by the following provision:

§ 3143.

(a) Release or detention pending sentence.

The judicial officer shall order that a person who has been found guilty of an offense and who is waiting imposition or execution of sentence, be detained, unless the judicial officer finds by clear and convincing evidence that the person is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released pursuant to section 3142(b) or (c). If the judicial officer makes such a ...


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